Knowing when—and how—to stop swaddling your baby is tricky! After all, you know swaddling is super effective for calming infants and helping them sleep better...so, who wants to change that?! But you also don’t want to do anything that may put your baby in harm’s way…which is what can happen if you continue to swaddle your baby for too long. Here, my expert guidance.

Why I Recommend Swaddling Your Baby

Infant crying and parent exhaustion can trigger relationship stress, postpartum depression, breastfeeding struggles, infant sleep deaths from overtired parents opting for unsafe sleeping practices, and more. Swaddling is an integral part of my 5 S’s for soothing babies, which means swaddling is fantastic at helping to reduce fussing and boost sleep. In fact, swaddling your infant is a critical tool for improving the health of the whole family!

Infants are happiest—and sleep the best—when we “recreate” the womb with the 5 S’s during the first three to four months after delivery. Think of it like this: By swaddling your baby, you’re helping to create your baby’s missing fourth trimester.

How to Swaddle Safely

Whether swaddling or not, always place your baby on their back to sleep—alone—on a firm, flat surface that’s free of any loose bedding, pillows, stuffed toys, and bumper pads. In addition:

  • Because too-small or too-big swaddle blankets can easily pop open and unravel, always use a lightweight blanket that’s a 44- to 47-inch square—or use a secure zipper swaddle, like my award-winning Sleepea 5-Second Swaddle.

  • Swaddles should be snug along the torso and arms and looser at the hips and legs to keep babies safely wrapped and to prevent hip dysplasia. (You should be able to fit two fingers at the top of the swaddle, between the blanket and your baby’s chest.)

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns parents not to use weighted swaddles or weighted blankets, which can put excess and unsafe pressure on your baby’s chest and lungs.

  •  Since swaddling can potentially increase the chance your baby will overheat, always use a lightweight, breathable swaddle blanket.

When to Stop Swaddling

Swaddling is a game-changer for quality sleep in young babies, but there comes a time when swaddling needs to be stopped. But answering the question “When should I stop swaddling my baby?” does not have one simple answer. The short answer is that swaddling must stop when your baby can roll. While every baby is different, some little ones start rolling as early as 2 months.

The longer answer: In general, babies do best when swaddling lasts until they’re 4 to 5 months old…but that won’t work for early rollers. Fortunately, there is a completely safe way to continue swaddling your baby—and continue reaping the good-sleep benefits—for up to 6 months. It’s with my award-winning SNOO Smart Sleeper, which thanks to its built-in swaddle, helps prevent rolling to the stomach (a SIDS risk factor).

Why do I need to stop swaddling my baby?

As swaddling has surged in popularity over the past 15 years, so have concerns and controversies around this ancient practice. Some doctors warn parents to stop swaddling at 2 months for fear your baby might start rolling to their stomach soon. Even the prestigious AAP recommends parents should wean from swaddling when infants start to roll, which can happen as early as 2 to 3 months. The reason: When swaddled babies roll to their tummies, they do not have free hands to push up and liberate their face to breathe. 

Do I stop swaddling if my baby breaks out of the swaddle?

Unless your little one is rolling, keep trying with the swaddle! Most of the time, babies fight swaddling simply because their swaddle needs a slight adjustment. For example, if your baby’s swaddle isn’t secure enough, their startle reflex can cause arm flails and stretches that look like your baby is trying to escape! Learn how to tweak your swaddling technique to help your little one love the swaddle with my tips. And for a little how-to-swaddle refresher, check out my classic DUDU swaddle method.

How can I safely swaddle my baby for longer?

Put your baby to sleep in SNOO! To solve for the “when to stop swaddling” uncertainties, my team and I invented SNOO, the world’s only bassinet that gives babies the many benefits of swaddling...without the risks. SNOO keeps infants sleeping safely on their backs for all naps and nights, thanks to the unique SNOO Sack swaddle, which clips into the bassinet to prevent risky rolling. In fact, SNOO is the only baby bassinet that keeps your baby safely on the back, just as recommended by the AAP Safe Sleep guidelines. SNOO is so safe, in fact, that over 150 hospitals all over the world place their smallest patients in SNOO. As a bonus, SNOO also delivers the soothing fourth-trimester sensations—white noise and rocking—babies love so much—in just the right doses. (SNOO is a responsive bassinet that “listens” to your baby and then selects the exact level of white noise and calming motion that will work best to soothe your child’s crying and boost sleep.)

How do I wean my baby from swaddling?

Unless your baby is rolling, there’s no need to stop swaddling. If your baby is snoozing in SNOO, it’s perfectly safe to keep your baby swaddled until they graduate to the crib. With that, here’s how you can begin to wean your little one from the swaddle:

  • Step 1: Start the swaddle weaning process by wrapping your baby with one arm out of the swaddle. If you’re using Sleepea, this is easy. Simply undo the shoulder snaps on one side, and gently pull your baby’s arm through. (It’s best to start with the hand that your baby tends to favor the most.) Bonus: Sleepea makes breaking out of the one-armed swaddle hard!

  • Step 2: If your baby continues to sleep well for a few nights—congrats—you can move to both arms out (if using Sleepea) or stop swaddling completely! If your baby starts middle-of-the-night waking with one arm out, restart swaddling and try the one-armed wrap again in a few weeks. But, if your baby starts trying to roll over, you’ll need to stop swaddling right away, just as the AAP recommends.

  • Step 3: Don’t trade your baby’s swaddle for a cozy blanket! Babies under a year old should have no loose bedding in their sleep space. Instead, dress your bub in a wearable blanket or turn Sleepea into a full arms-out sleep sack. (Babies under 26 pounds can continue sleeping their familiar Sleepea as long as BOTH of Baby’s arms are out.)

How do I wean an infant from swaddling?

If you’ve got a baby who’s already rolling at 2 to 3 months—and not sleeping in SNOO—it’ll be harder to wean them from swaddling than older babies. At this age, babies often still very much need womb-like sensations to help them stay asleep and to keep them from waking frequently. That’s why—if you must stop swaddling at 2 to 3 months—it’s extra important to use white noise as a sleep cue for all naps and nights. White noise, aka shushing, is another important element of the 5 S’s, that work to activate Baby’s inborn calming reflex—or their “off switch” for fussing and “on switch” for sleep. Gentle rocking motion (the swinging S) is another fantastic sleep cue, but beware, only swings that recline all the way flat are safe for your precious baby to snooze in. (Find out why inclined sleepers are so risky.)

How do I wean Baby from swaddling in SNOO?

SNOO was designed for babies up to 6 months old—or until your little one can get on their hands and knees. If you are bumping against either of those milestones, it’s time to start weaning from the SNOO swaddle. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Free one of Baby’s arms. Like Sleepea, there are snaps on the shoulders of your SNOO Sack. Undo the snaps on one side of the swaddle and let one of your baby’s arms out. (Choose the arm that your baby tends to favor the most.) If your little one startling themselves awake, go back to both arms swaddled and try one-arm-out again in a week.

  • Step 2: Free the other arm. After a few nights of quality sleep with one arm out, set Baby’s other arm free. (When you release your baby’s arms, continue to fasten the inner bands snugly around your little one’s midsection.)

  • Step 3: Turn Weaning Mode on. Once your baby is sleeping well with both arms out, allow your little one about a week or two with SNOO on Weaning Mode before you move your baby into a crib. (For step-by-step instructions on transitioning Baby from SNOO to crib, check out my easy how-tos.)

 

For more on baby transitions, check out…

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.